CALAIS, Maine — City councilors Thursday night completed budget deliberations, giving their stamp of approval to a $3,273,025 budget for the 2011 fiscal year.
Many cuts were made, including the elimination of the police and fire dispatch center, to offset a loss of $263,625 in revenues, most of them state revenue sharing.
Last year’s budget was $3,457,597, Town Manager Diane Barnes said, and the final budget should drop the city’s mill rate by a single mill, to $23.70 per $1,000 valuation.
Speaking about the difficulty of making some of the cuts, which included personnel and services, Councilor Joyce Maker said, “We have no choice. Our citizens cannot see a rise in taxes.”
But because the municipal budget does not include the school and county assessments, taxes may end up rising anyway.
Mayor Vinton Cassidy bemoaned that state legislators “bragged they had cut the state budget, but what they did was put it all back on the municipalities. Sixteen percent of our people in Calais live below the poverty level, compared to 12 percent statewide. We need to make these cuts.”
Councilor Marianne Moore pointed out that the city pays $210,000 annually in county taxes. With the shift from municipal dispatching to the Washington County Regional Communications Center, she said, “We will finally get something for our money.”
In a recent interview, Barnes said the cuts were necessary to offset the loss of revenue.
“The first place the council looked was duplication of services,” she said.
All 911 calls already are handled by the regional communications center based in Machias, but after July 1, no dispatcher will be in Calais for day-to-day calls and all calls for assistance will be rerouted to the Machias center.
This move, Barnes said, is expected to save the city $125,000 and require hiring an additional full-time police officer.
Other cuts to the budget proposed by the council are the elimination of part-time library staff and a part-time position in the Public Works Department, changing the structure of the employees’ nonunion health insurance plan, reducing assessing costs and Recreation Department part-time wages, and no longer using salt on city sidewalks.
In other business, the council adopted changes to the town’s cemetery ordinance that assess a $50 fine for a first offense if pet owners fail to clean up after their dogs in town cemeteries.
The new ordinance also requires both a casket and a cement vault to be used for all burials.